Why I’m Praying All Day Today

This is the second in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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It’s amazing to me that the moment I decide to make a point to live in the knowledge of constant rejoicing in what Christ has done, I realize how desperately I need to commit to the following verse: “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Last week we received some difficult news that drove me to my knees in tears. I cannot express how much I didn’t feel like rejoicing; it was quite the opposite, actually. I couldn’t see beyond the circumstances I found myself in and I asked the Lord why this was happening. My mind clicked and whirred, thinking of all the ways we may have been able to avoid this if we had known then what we know now.

Over the past ten years or so, the Lord has graciously been reworking my heart and rooting out some of the things I’ve believed that simply aren’t true. One of those is the false impression that if I just do the right things, the right things will happen for me.

I mulled over the hard road ahead. “But we’re good people!” I found myself thinking. “We shouldn’t be dealing with this!”

And in the very next moment, it struck me: maybe all really is grace.

All the good things, all the tough things, all the things we can’t control and all the things we have some power over – it’s ALL His grace.

I am not all-knowing. I am not all-wise. My understanding has limits.

But I put my faith in the One whose “understanding no one can fathom”, the One who really does know what’s behind and ahead, the One who is good and just and full of compassion and deep love. The question then becomes not “why is it like this?” but “to whom will I compare Him? Or who is His equal?”

And I bow to the One who is worthy of my worship and my full trust. I am learning day by day and moment by moment that it requires a heart of constant prayer.

Lord, help me see You today!

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NIV)

“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

‘To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God’?

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

stars caleb woods

Image: Caleb Woods

The Choice to Rejoice

This is the first in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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Last night I was wracked with anxiety over nothing in particular and everything all at once.

The pressure of the first two weeks of September were mounting and my release valve was stuck. It had been too long since I stopped to take a deep breath of the Word. I had short quick moments of encouragement from the Bible, but I needed more.

I needed to really sit in the quiet of the late evening and let it wash over me.

When I was a kid Scripture memory was a great way to win cool prizes so I went all in with it. I realize now that it was one of the best gifts my Sunday School and camp experiences have ever given me, because all these years later, the very same verses will pop into my mind exactly when I need them the most.

Everyone else was asleep. I was awake, reading two words that are difficult for me right now:  “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

A friend just received some tough news about her daughter.

Another friend lost her dad a few weeks ago.

The world feels scary and unpredictable. Farmers struggle through difficult seasons of bad weather and poor crops, wildfires rage, hurricanes bring catastrophic flooding, good people face unemployment in a tough economy and we’re never short of bad news from around the world.

How can we possibly “rejoice always” when this is the reality we live in?

I know I can’t just muster it up by the power of positive thinking, no matter how hard I try.

There has to be more.

I certainly don’t have the answers to the why and how of the darkest valleys we face. But as a person who puts my faith in Jesus, I am called to rejoice always not because of my circumstances but in spite of them. I rejoice in what Jesus has done when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave. His death conquered sin and his resurrection overcame the grave. Because of Jesus, we have an eternal hope that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3).

“Rejoice always” isn’t a chore we grit our teeth through when the going gets tough.

It’s not a pep talk when the world is falling apart around us.

It’s a choice we make to trust that God’s word is true and unfailing – and the Word made Flesh, Jesus, makes a difference in our lives right now. He is the reason we choose to rejoice always.

Amen. This week I’m going all in with that.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV) —

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

September sky

One September morning this sunrise was outside my window.

Finding My Thankful Heart

In about three weeks, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving.

Already.

Every year it’s the same: September’s whirlwind of details unfolds day by day with little time to catch my breath and before I know it here comes Thanksgiving with its call to pause in the middle of it all and give thanks to the One who deserves everything.

About six years ago, I had an idea to take Thanksgiving from one of those holidays that sneaks up on me every year to something more reflective and intentional, and so, Three Weeks of Thanks was born. I’m a Canadian prairie girl and my husband is both American and Canadian, so we have the benefit of celebrating two Thanksgivings every year, but it’s the first one that comes on so fast!

Every September as I start to mull over what Three Weeks of Thanks will be this year, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 comes to mind:

Rejoice always.

Pray continually.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When life is moving so quickly and all the little details are unceasing, it’s easy to just let Thanksgiving be turkey and stuffing and family or friends you haven’t seen in a while. But it’s so much more than that.

For the past five years I’ve done a few small things to make Thanksgiving a season in our home. The kids have already asked about our “Thanksgiving Tree” – a sheet of burlap that hangs against the wall with construction paper leaves that say what we’re thankful for this year. We hang the leaves of years past so we can see God’s faithfulness to our family and each person can remember where we’ve come from. My home decorating skills are minimal so pretty it ain’t, but we choose to focus on what it means to be thankful, even when we aren’t feeling it, and learning how to turn our hearts toward God in all things.

In the middle of life with a capital L and all it entails, stretching out the Thanksgiving season is an opportunity to find my thankful heart again and turn my eyes from my circumstances back to the Lord.

Look for my weekly blog series “Three Weeks of Thanks” starting Monday, and use #3WeeksofThanks to join the conversation.

fall flowers

The September sun fell so beautifully on these fall flowers in my dining room.

Why We Need Wisdom

You have permission to say “No”.

You have permission to say “Yes”.

But only you can make that decision.

When you’re a capable, can-do woman, typically you’re not lacking in opportunity to get involved in a variety of different things.

And when you’re a capable, can-do woman, sometimes you fall for the lie that you only matter because you’re involved in a variety of different things.

When I was starting my radio career as a young adult, I got the fantastic opportunity to host a morning show in a medium market Canadian city. I knew it meant waking up before dawn to plan and prepare a show day after day for our listeners. And I knew it meant giving up my evenings so I could go to bed early to have the energy to do a great show every day.

That in itself is a big job. But when I arrived on the scene, I realized there was no promotions department. So I pioneered one with no budget.

At first, I was thriving! I loved the challenge of hosting the show, creating promotions and going to events. I loved meeting new people and building connections. But slowly, over time, the schedule took its toll on me.

Early morning wake-ups coupled with 60 hour work weeks left me weary. I mistakenly believed I was irreplaceable and suffered dearly for it. My mood took a downward turn, my outlook on life became dark and my heart was very sad.

One day, out of sheer exhaustion, I handed in my resignation. To my surprise, instead of accepting it the station manager asked me to take a week off to think about my decision and get some rest.

I traveled to another city for some recuperation with family, but on the drive home I couldn’t stop crying. I loved my job, but my job wasn’t loving me back. And I was terrified at the thought of returning to the same exhausting life I had built for myself.

It wasn’t long before the resignation was back on the manager’s desk.

About a month later, I quit the job for real and spent the summer at my parents’ farm. Being the young, independent woman that I was, returning home wasn’t an easy pill to swallow.

Thankfully, summers on the farm were my favourite especially because of the wild storms, and one storm in particular made a big impact on me.

I remember sleeping on the couch one night as this one blew through. The lightning and thunder were non-stop; the wind drove the rain against the house with such force that I thought the windows would break. I could hear the huge tree branches creaking. Would they survive? Wide awake until the ear-splitting thunder became a few rumbles in the distance, I watched as the lightning continued long after. My eyes were fixed on the windows, looking for the next flash. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I saw was the light of the rising sun.

I went outside to survey the damage. The ground was littered with leaves and branches and the crops were flat in places. Even the sturdiest tree looked worse for wear.

Thinking about it now, I can see how my own experience with overcommitment was much like that wicked summer storm, leaving a trail of damage in its wake. It took a long time before I was even willing to entertain the idea of returning to the airwaves, and an even longer time before I was ready to.

Burnout is a tough lesson in learning to say “no” to finding my identity in anything but Jesus.

This fall, as the opportunities come your way, weigh each one against your priorities and give yourself the gift of saying no to anything that does not fit inside the limits of the season God has placed you in.

The best part? He will give you the wisdom you need when you ask for it.

DuncanMaloneyLightning

Image: Duncan Maloney